Post Travels: A Brief Visit to Ireland — Day 2: Being There

Steve Slon attends a conference of travel writers in Ireland and does a little sightseeing, as well. See the entire series

Ah, what a good night’s sleep does for you. Delicious Irish breakfast including the freshest eggs, the tastiest thick slabs of bacon, the richest butter and a hefty “Guinness” bread. Fortified for the day, I attend a few sessions at the conference where editors of various travel magazines talk about their strategies and travel writers take careful notes. (I’m going to leave out some details of this professional conference, but suffice to say, phrases like “digital landscape” are thrown about somewhat casually. I don’t suppose this kind of thing is of interest to people outside the world of publishing. But I do have to say that I lament the time when our business was simply about good writing.)

Sneak out in the rare bit of Irish sunshine for a walk around the grounds. Come across a beautiful pond.

A hidden pond on the grounds of Lyrath Hotel. 


Trees next to field
The smell of creosote mingled with the fragrance of blooming spring flowers on my morning walk. 

A walled garden at Lyrath Hotel. 

In the afternoon, a series of one-on-one sessions with travel writers. Each individual session is 10 minutes long. I imagine it’s kinda like speed dating. Exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Writers usually come to the session with a few pre-planned story ideas. The best ones come from writers who’ve read the Post and are familiar with its style and subject matter. (I’ve let people know they can think outside the travel category if they have something good.)

Sure enough, I get some excellent story ideas. Regular readers of the Post may see some of these in the coming months. Highlights include: books to die for (that is, first editions and manuscripts of famous books like the Irish Book of Kells that people have died trying to save – or, in some cases, steal); the history of grain elevators in America (after falling into disuse, grain elevators have been rediscovered and repurposed as museums, hotels, recreation centers and more); the lasting impact of prohibition (2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal); companies that are helping prisoners re-enter society; restored WW2 POW camps in the U.S. for captured German soldiers (it’s notable that German POWs were well treated by and large).

All this and several terrific suggestions for travel pieces about Ireland, of which I can only choose one!

I’m inspired. Head full of fresh story ideas for the Post. (Hmm, don’t know if I’ll have time to return that fancy adapter I bought yesterday).

Later that same evening, we were squired to the ultra-lux Mt. Juliet Estate for dinner. Driving onto the grounds, we were confronted with the stunning landscape of the famous Mt. Juliet golf course. A Jack Nicklaus course, it was the site of the Irish Open on three different occasions. Just beautiful.

As someone who has played golf indifferently for years, but has recently caught the golfing bug (which should possibly be classified as a terminal illness) I began to think about trying to finagle a round. But, about that, more later.

Our bus finally arrived at the end of the long driveway where we were greeted at the entrance to the grand manor by the hounds and huntsman.

The falconer with his Harris hawk at Mt. Juliet Estate

As the dogs obediently follow him off to their kennel, we had a demonstration of falconry in which the falconer incited his Harris hawk to fly down from a tree just over the head of a volunteer. (I had my hand up, but so did half the group, and I was not selected).

As the bird swooped down, the volunteer couldn’t help emitting a bit of a yelp, which was all very entertaining for the rest of us.

On to a delicious dinner, a possible surfeit of wine and then drinks at the bar. Our scheduled return to Lyrath House was at 9 pm. The buses didn’t load until 11:30.

Steve Slon is the Editorial Director for The Saturday Evening Post. See the entire series

Post Travels: A Brief Visit to Ireland — Day 1: Getting There

Steve Slon attends a conference of travel writers in Ireland and does a little sightseeing, as well. See the entire series

Day 1. Getting There

Arrive Dublin airport around 8:30 AM. Very little sleep. Disturbingly mammoth line to go through customs. But it’s no more than a formality of stamping passports, so it moves quickly.

Board bus with a group of travel writers and ride to Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny. The hotel is grand, built in the 17th century on the site of a ruined castle from Medieval times. Nothing left of that original castle unfortunately, but the 17th century wing of the hotel is ivy covered and charming.

Ivy covered walls of Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny. All photos by Steve Slon.


Tom the doorman.

Three humongous golden retrievers greet us. Or, rather, I should say, allow us to step carefully over them as they lie immobile in the doorway.

Golden Retrievers greeted us as we arrived. 

Golden Retrievers greeted us as we arrived. 

The traveling part of traveling is not much fun. The getting there is the fun part. And, as I’ve learned, you quickly forget about the jet lag and the hassle of airplane travel, customs and the like. You simply need to spend the first day abroad getting organized or catching up on sleep, or both. In this case, I’d forgotten to bring adapters for the Irish wall sockets.

Oops, helpless without a way to charge batteries for computer, smart phone, camera. (How has all this equipment become so essential in such a few short years?)

Figured I’d just call down to the lobby for a spare, but the hotel didn’t have any. So I spent a good deal of time calling around and finally found a store in Kilkenny that carried them.

Taxi to the store, where it turned out the only product they had is a very fancy, multipurpose adapter for just about any kind of socket you can find, UK, US, Italy and several other places. It cost about $40. Okay, this is the price of traveling. Paid the bill and got back in the cab.

End of story? Not exactly. The affable cabbie is horrified to learn how much I’ve spent on the adapter.  He takes me to the Irish equivalent of a dollar store where I purchase three adapters for about five bucks. I plan to return the expensive version tomorrow.

Major feeling of accomplishment for solving this conundrum.

That evening, lovely dinner at the hotel with speeches and general good cheer. Among the attendees, travel writers, editors of travel magazines and other publications (like the Post) that include articles about traveling. Wonderful talk by our keynote speaker, George Stone, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine, in which he talks about the value of travel in connecting us to different cultures and revealing the similarities of the human experience across the artificial divide of borderlines.

Ruth Moran, who represents Irish tourism, reads a poem consisting of a compilation, one line from each person, who were asked on facebook to answer the question ‘Ireland is…..’?

She warns before reading it that we won’t understand all, and we don’t, but we get the warm feeling just the same. (I’ll just share some of the best bits here. )

Ireland is…

Ireland is mammy shouting

Close the door, you’ll leave the heat out

A Daddy who can’t say how much he misses you

Where it rains in the front garden

And it’s a rainbow out the back


Ireland is…

The official home of the rainbow marriage

Where warm hearts send blood to warm toes

While we listen to the death notices on the radio

And give single finger waves on country roads


Ireland is 

midnight mass at 9 O’clock

Where the wit is dry but the weather is wet

Where loving yourself is seen as being too big for your boots

A soggy little rock onto which our dreams cling like limpets


Ireland is…

Where “Pennies” is an acceptable response to a compliment on your outfit

Ireland is a tayto sandwich

Ireland puts clothes on the line in November

Because using the tumble dryer would be a fierce extravagance altogether

It’s a damp eyed tune with a wooden spoon

And worrying about the person you gave directions to


Ireland is..

A mammy offering you a sandwich even though she’s not your mammy

Ireland is my home, my heart and my blood

Ireland is not using the good room

Where a potato in a suit is a national treasure

It’s the squint on the lough against the cold autumn sun

And the fog of glorious stories condensing on the pub’s window pane


Ireland is…

easy to leave but impossible to escape

It’s thanking the bus driver for getting us there safe

Ireland is a box of fancy biscuits you are not allowed to eat, just in case

Ireland is green fields and laughter

Where you’re mammy says, “we’re not made of money” as an answer to almost everything

Even though the answer is usually sudocream


Ireland is…

cutting the grass because the neighbors did theirs

Solving the entire world’s problems, one cup of tea at a time

Ireland is not being able to say goodbye

Ok, bye, bye, bye now, good luck, bye, bye, bye


Woman playing with dogs in a field in Ireland
160 manicured acres surround Lyrath Hotel. 

Steve Slon is the Editorial Director for The Saturday Evening Post. See the entire series